The European Parliament does not sufficiently control what MEPs are doing with their monthly expense allowance, according to an international survey published by Knack magazine on Wednesday. Besides their gross salary of 8,484 euros, the deputies receive 4,342 euros for their expenses monthly. This allowance is fixed and is not supposed to be justified by notes or invoices. The directives stipulate that the amount may be allocated to office expenses (rental, equipment, furniture, etc.), computer expenses and accounting or representation expenses. It is however prohibited to use it to finance a national party directly or indirectly.
Knack questioned the 21 Belgian MEPs about the possibility of renting an office outside Parliament. Hilde Vautmans, Guy Verhofstadt, Lieve Wierinck (Open Vld), Bart Staes (Groen) and Claude Rolin (cdH) have a home office but do not use their allowance to rent it “for themselves”.
Tom Vandekendelaere (CD&V) rents a space in Roeselare. Pascal Arimont (CSP) is the tenant of two offices in Eupen and Saint-Vith. Hugues Bayet (Socialist Party) rents an office to him at the communal house of Farciennes, of which he is the burgomaster, for 100 euros per month.
“If a certain number of conditions are met and the rent is in line with the market price, the MP can rent an office to his own party”, said Parliament spokesman, Marjory van den Broeke. Of the 192 MEPs who made this choice, three are Belgians: Kathleen Van Brempt (for 500 euros per month, within the provincial federation of sp.a in Antwerp), Marie Arena (for 500 euros, within the Brussels federation of the Socialist Party) and the ecologist Philippe Lamberts, who pays 3,745 euros a year to his party.
Gerolf Annemans (Vlaams Belang) rents two offices in Brussels for 3,700 euros per month. As the far-right deputy did not provide an address, Knack was not in a position to determine whether these places were linked to his party.
The investigation also revealed that a Polish parliamentarian hired no fewer than thirteen offices. Of the 667 MEPs, only 40% were willing to voluntarily provide their expense reports. No Belgians are among them. For the Transparency International organisation, the European Parliament should quickly put in place a control system.